Our adventure that we set out towards four days ago finally commenced yesterday. We woke up in the wee hours of the mornin (read that in an Irish accent please) in Jerusalem and began our journey by crossing the checkpoint into Bethlehem for our first full day.
The first thing that we did was to survey the vast expanse of the separation wall that runs through Bethlehem, dividing it from Jerusalem and even other parts of the town of Bethlehem itself. While the wall runs through 600 miles of Palestinian land, seeing it in the town that Jesus was born in is perhaps the most powerful place to witness it. It made me consider the fact that Jesus
…himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between the Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility towards each other was put to death. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
The truth of this passage is what our team seeks to portray in our film. While the separation wall in Palestine appears to embody quite the opposite idea of Christ’s purpose, it stands as a challenge and ever-present reminder that we are to continually pursue love and reconciliation with each other in order to truly experience Christ’s redemptive message that is true for all people, not just those on one side of the wall (figurative or otherwise).
After meandering through the streets of Bethlehem for several hours, we were privileged to meet with Elias, our first interviewee for the film. As a Palestinian Christian, Elias told us stories that offered a different perspective than what is generally heard about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Although we would discover later in our conversation with him just how much violence and tragedy he has witnessed firsthand (and in many cases, in his own backyard), when we first arrived at his home we were greeted with a sincere and joyful welcome. This included a lesson in making Arabic coffee (which cured any left over jetlag our team was feeling) and his translation of an Arabic and manly version of Britney Spear’s song “Womanizer”.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, Elias’ vibrant personality brought much laughter to our team, yet in a few moments of utmost vulnerability he brought tears to our eyes as he shared his many experiences with injustice and death. He did not have to be explicit about his faith in Jesus in order for us to realize that this was where he found his hope—it was clear from the very moment we were greeted into his house that he has learned that Christ’s example of love is more powerful than the sword. Our first meeting with him reminded us that, regardless of culture, faith, or political background, love is a universal language that can unite us all. Our hope as a team is that, through the hearing of Elias’ and other characters’ stories, we will all be challenged to learn to speak this language a little better.